Fernando, Mario & Jenna on 2017 Indianapolis 500


I finally got around to reading this interview with Mario Andretti about the Associated Press' Jenna Fryer's opinion piece concerning Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso competing in the 2017 Indianapolis 500.
Basically, I agree with Mario's view - but with a few qualifications. I will say that I don't think Jenna owes anyone an apology, and I also believe in her overarching point that in the grand scheme of things Alonso's participation in the Indianapolis 500 will have little impact on interest in the race with the exception of international TV ratings, especially and obviously in Spain. I do not believe in any way, shape or form did she intend to denigrate Fernando or his outstanding, world class command of race-craft.
The racing community, including its fans, live in a bubble. In our increasingly shrinking corner of the world one of the most talented drivers on the planet, such as Fernando Alonso, skipping the Monaco Grand Prix to tackle the Indianapolis 500 is a big deal. I think it will be the most interesting storyline of the race and will deeply enrich my enjoyment of it.
Alonso is probably the most talented driver entered in the "500" this year, and certainly the best compensated. How he adapts to the world's most famous oval will be immensely intriguing. I wish him well and would be delighted to see him win - but, please, God, please, not in a "fuel strategy" race.
To the core of Jenna's point, people beyond the racing community are not going to take action based on this information. People beyond the racing community are not going to tune in because of this news. IMS, the fortunate bystanders in this deal, will have the bonus of a couple of additional suite sales and a bump of less than 1 percent of ticket sales - that's good but hardly a windfall.
The bubble will buzz, however. The absolute epicenter of the racing community and society of Indianapolis will clamor and elbow their way into photos with Alonso. At least in their imaginations, they will believe they have been elevated in the implied pecking order of "who's who," but it will be on to the next thing in June.
For those of us who sincerely savor the sport, it will be a delight to see such a great driver at the absolute zenith of his powers compete in the Indianapolis 500. It's also nice that such a heralded, massive talent as Alonso wants to race in the "500."
This is NOT a Zak Brown fabrication, but his creativity, boundless energy, and can-do spirit makes it possible. Fernando absolutely wanted it, and Zak engineered it.
Zak will also apply his genius to leverage the Hell out of this to make lemonade out of the giant, sour situation McLaren-Honda is right now. This could be the bright spot of their year - that's how bad their F1 program is.
Let's be very clear, though. Very clear. Alonso is at a point where he doesn't do things he doesn't want to. He doesn't have to race the "500," and not even Zak can convince him otherwise.
We are decades away from Nigel Mansell let alone Clark, Hill, Brabham and Stewart. It's nice to know Fernando cares and understands that while the "500" may have been diminished by a variety circumstances over the past two or three decades, it still stands as the most historically significant auto race in the world.
It's also true that for fans of the "500," we are fortunate that Team McLaren is hopelessly uncompetitive in F1 right now. If not for that, Alonso would not be coming. Under no other scenario would one of the top two or three leading lights of F1 be coming to our great celebration at the expense of racing through the streets of the principality.
So, bravo, Fernando, for respecting our great race. And bravo, Zak, for having the savvy to recognize opportunity and structure a deal with the help and cooperation of Michael Andretti, Michael Shank and we should never forget Stefan Wilson who deserves a huge payback further down the road. Thank you.
There's no need for Mario or anyone to be "livid" over Jenna's article. It's all good - just have some perspective.